Oregon’s two U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, were evacuated from the United States Capitol as they prepared to certify the results of the presidential election, as a seditionist mob backing President Donald Trump stormed the building.
Both men are safe, their offices confirmed.
Merkley, speaking from an undisclosed, secure location in Washington, D.C., described an “an assault on the Capitol” that was chaotic and frightening, as Capitol Police interrupted debate, rushed Vice President Mike Pence from the Senate floor and locked lawmakers in the chambers.
“There was a lot of confusion about where the keys were and how to lock the doors,” he recalled. “It’s a strange feeling to be locked in a room that you know is not designed to be secure, when you know there’s a lot of angry people waiting outside. I did look around to think: If somebody did burst in with a gun, what do you do? We’re trapped in that chamber.”
Trump urged his supporters in a rally this morning to march to the Capitol as senators certified the results of the election—which Trump falsely insists was stolen, and is trying to overturn. When Pence announced he would not attempt to block the certification, furious right-wing rioters surged up the Capitol steps, overwhelming police and breaking into the building.
Merkley says he realized something was wrong when he heard noises in the hallways, then saw security rushing to the dais.
“Nobody runs on the floor of the chamber. Nobody interrupts a speech,” he said. “The moment the vice president was rushed off the floor, there was a sense that yes, this is all about protesters.”
Wyden released a statement through his office decrying the attack.
“What’s happening today in our nation’s Capitol is a direct assault on democracy, a riot by insurrectionists that caps off four years of Donald Trump fanning the flames of fanaticism,” Wyden said. “Every Republican lawmaker who supported his efforts to overturn a legitimate election shares responsibility for the violence at the heart of our democracy.”
Later in the afternoon, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer called for Congress to impeach Trump and for the president’s cabinet to utilize the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows the unseating of a president who is unable to serve. On Twitter, Blumenauer called Trump a “madman.”
“Let’s be clear about what happened here. The President of the United States sent a mob of domestic terrorists down Pennsylvania Avenue to attack and take over the U.S. Capitol in order to stop the certification of an election that he lost badly,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “This man needs to be removed immediately and I am hopeful he will face further consequences for his actions.”
Speaking on a Zoom call with Oregon press, Merkley remained confident that the Electoral College certification would be completed this week. He placed blame for the interruption squarely on the incumbent president, who goaded his base into an attempted coup.
“This situation is the result of what has been the failure of a strong bipartisan pushback to the lies and conspiracy theories pushed by the president since Nov. 3,” Merkley said. “People came to the Capitol infuriated, believing those lies. And this is the result.”
In fact, the certification of the election resumed that very night, with objections to votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania failing in the Senate. All legal and legislative avenues for the president to overturn the election have been exhausted.
On the floor of the Senate, however, Wyden (D-Oregon) issued a warning: “Donald Trump can do enormous damage to our country in the next two weeks.”